The Milwaukee Brewers are both literally and figuratively firing on all cylinders.
Taking game one of the 2011 NLDS by a 4-1 mark Saturday afternoon, Ron Roenicke and his suddenly hot-hitting crew took to Miller Park on Sunday afternoon with high expectations…possibly too high. Milwaukee slugged their way towards a 9-4 victory over Kirk Gibson and company behind Zack Greinke — a man who has yet to lose at home this season.
Here’s five key observations to take away from games one and twp with the series now shifting to Arizona.
Everyone is Hitting
Seldom has Milwaukee put together such a valiant effort against top-notch pitching in consecutive games in 2011, but, then again, isn’t this the postseason? In games one and two, everyone in Ron Roenicke’s lineup seemed to be contributing toward a winning cause, leading to Milwaukee’s weekend sweep of Arizona.
On Saturday, the Brewers dismantled Cy Young-candidate Ian Kennedy to the tune of four runs on eight hits in just 6.2 innings of work. Sunday was much the same, as Milwaukee got to 24-year-old Daniel Hudson, putting up five runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings of work. I would be sweating if I was Charlie Manuel right about now.
Ron Roenicke Is a Genius (as If We Didn’t Already Know That)
Unimpressed with Casey McGehee’s performance at the end of the season, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke elected to put veteran and utility-man extraordinaire Jerry Hairston in at the hot corner to start the series.
Needless to say, the move payed off handsomely.
In game one, Hairston managed a sacrifice fly to center field that would score Ryan Braun in the fourth inning, breaking what was then a magnificent pitcher’s duel. He would also make a few key put-outs at third base during the game, as well.On Sunday afternoon, No. 15 worked his magic once more. Going 3-for-4 with a run scored, Hairston was an essential piece to Milwaukee’s puzzle in taking both games at home.
It’s as if Roenicke can see into the future…
John Axford…’Nuff Said
Trevor Hoffman, you’ve done well.
In his first go-around as Milwaukee’s full-time closer, John Axford has performed above what anyone could have expected. He hasn’t blown a save since last spring, and he’s only now getting recognition for it.
The former cellphone salesman and bartender set a franchiser record for saves in a season (46) in 2011, and quickly transitioned his regular-season success to the postseason. On Saturday, Axford worked a one-two-three ninth inning including a strikeout against Arizona. Sunday was no different, as Axford closed the door in the ninth inning with two emphatic punchouts to put the Brewers up 2-0 in this 2011 NLDS series.
Yovani Gallardo Looks Unstoppable
What Yovani Gallardo has been able to accomplish in just four complete seasons as a starter for the Brewers is nothing short of spectacular. However, it may be what he has yet to achieve that will be most impressive.
In his first truly meaningful postseason start, the 25-year-old Gallardo went the distance, administering nine strikeouts and just four hits in eight innings of work while giving up just one run. His outstanding performance would make John Axford’s job a whole lot more easy. If he can keep this pace up, the Brewers should like their chances against either Philadelphia or St. Louis in the NLCS (assuming they make it that far).
Ryan Braun is Really, Really Good (and Is clearly NL MVP)
Just kidding. We knew this after his first big-league game.
It’s hard not to be in complete awe of what Ryan Braun brings to each and every at-bat. One of the few traditional five-tool players inMLB today, Milwaukee’s left fielder is showing what he can do on the brightest of stages.
Through both games of this NLDS series, Braun has gone 6-for-8 with four runs scored, a home run and three runs batted in. Sorry, Matt Kemp. The NL MVP resides in Milwaukee.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
The Milwaukee Brewers (96-66) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) will do battle in the first round of the MLB playoffs, marking the first time the two franchises have ever met in postseason action. There’s no disputing the offensive firepower that will be on hand during the enticing best-of-five series—however, it may be the unheralded pitching of both squads that will determine the outcome. Regardless, we’re in for quite a treat.
Here are five bold predictions for the NLDS Series, which opens Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee.
Ryan Braun Will Hit a Walk-off Home Run in Game 1
What a start to a series, huh?
By and large, there isn’t one single player in MLB who’s had more to do with his team’s success than Ryan Braun. In scoring 109 runs and driving home 111 RBI, Braun has accounted for a whopping 31 percent of Milwaukee’s 721 total runs scored this season. Braun’s league-leading .994 OPS and .597 SLG make him the most lethal offensive weapon of any National League team in the postseason.
But wait—there’s more. In the ninth inning this season (34 plate appearances), Braun has a .412 BA with 8 RBI, 3 HR and is slugging an insane .794 with a 1.206 OPS. Granted, he has struggled against Arizona in five seasons (.220 BA, 6 HR, 19 RBI, .742 OPS), but Braun has been clutch when it’s mattered most this season.
Justin Upton Will Struggle Against Brewers Pitching
This may not even be a bold prediction, as much as an interpretation of the past.
For his career, Justin Upton has struggled mightily against the Brewers. In 124 plate appearances, Upton has managed a .223 BA with just 6 HR and 12 RBI and has stuck out 27 times, compared to just 25 total hits. It should be interesting to see how he conducts himself in his first true go-around on the postseason stage and if he can rectify his history against Milwaukee pitching.
Zack Greinke Will Have a Chance at a No-Hitter
Zack Greinke has been lights-out at Miller Park this season, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. In 15 home starts, the former Cy Young Award winner has gone 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 95 innings of work. He also leads all major league starters in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.54), and ranks sixth in K/BB (4.47).
If Greinke is able to get off to a fast start against Arizona (a team he has faced just once in his career), he’ll have a chance just like that of former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay last season, where he tossed a no-no in his first career postseason start with the Phillies. At home.
I’m not one to make such an audacious prediction such as this, but something tells me we’re in for history as Greinke makes his first career postseason start.
The Diamondbacks Will Take Games 3 and 4 at Home
In all honesty, the Brewers have had their fair share of struggles this season. At the All-Star break, Milwaukee limped their way to a 16-29 road record—enough to be the worst road-winning percentage of any first-place team. Granted, they’ve been able to somewhat right the ship, finishing with a 39-42 overall road record. Even so, the Diamondbacks have been largely successful at home this season, going 51-30 at Chase Field.
Shaun Marcum, who’s been nothing short of spectacular on the road this season, will likely get the nod for Game 3. But, as I see it, the Diamondbacks will get the better of Marcum in Game 3.
Milwaukee Will Take the Series in Five Games
Given the way both teams are playing heading into the postseason (Milwaukee having won five of their last six; Arizona having won seven of their last 10), we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. Both clubs are playing exceptional baseball right now, and it should be an entertaining series with a handful of clutch plays along the way.
However, with Milwaukee wrapping up the second overall seed, they’ll key in on playing their best baseball at Miller Park—where they’ve gone an MLB-best 57-24 this season, setting a new franchise record for home wins in a season.
The dynamic duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (in what will likely be their last season together), along with a slew of role-players such as Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan, should be enough to power Milwaukee past the red hot Diamondbacks.